"The smells of slow cooking spread around the house and impart a unique warmth matched only by the flavour of the food.” ~ Chef Yotam Ottolenghi
I bet you’re like me and grew up in a home with a slow-cooker, or a Crock Pot, as it’s most commonly known. I remember my mom’s first one in the late ’70s; it was green and had vegetables around the bottom edge for decoration, and the crock part was dark brown; a perfect representation of 1970s kitchen style.
It was all one piece; no convenient removable crock as they feature now. Washing it was always a tricky undertaking, because under no circumstances should the cord get wet or the pot be immersed! I’m certainly glad modern manufacturers figured out that we needed removable crocks so we don’t risk zapping ourselves in the name of cleanliness. Nonetheless, the meals these pots turned out made the trouble worth it.
I always enjoyed walking into the house after school when mom had a roast or some soup or chili in the crock pot. It was so fragrant and welcoming after a long day of P.E., algebra, and bus rides along Highway 98. To walk in the door and know that someone had been thinking ahead and planning what our family would eat for dinner was comforting and home-y. Mom’s beef stew was especially fantastic after a full day of simmering, the flavors merging to create the most tender carrots, potatoes and meat.
I still use my slow-cooker frequently, though now it’s a programmable one so I can tell it how long to cook on high or low before it switches to “keep warm.” That’s a handy feature when one is busy working. I typically make soups and roasts in mine, like mom did, as well as chili. The convenience of a slow cooker is exactly what every busy person needs; a meal ready when walking in the door in the evening is a happy greeting, taking the stress out of your day in a practical way.
Below I’ll share a couple of my favorite recipes, including a dessert.
First, a rich, creamy taco-inspired soup. I didn’t add any carbs, such as corn or beans, so if you’re one of those folks who are low-carb dieting, this will work for you as well as for all the other folks in the house. Everyone loves this soup.
This delicious soup will fill your belly and keep you warm...oh, and it’s delicious, most importantly! Give it a try this weekend.
Cheesy taco soup by Mama Steph
2 pounds meat: I used ground pork and ground turkey
2 eight-ounce blocks cream cheese
2 cans Rotel
4 cups of chicken broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
cayenne pepper, to taste (start with 1/2 teaspoon; work your way up to two teaspoons or more if you want a nice kick!)
1 large jalapeno, minced (remove seeds if you don’t want spicy heat)
Shredded cheese, for topping (Cheddar or Fiesta blend work well)
Brown the crumbled ground beef in a skillet; season with a teaspoon of salt. Add the jalapeno to allow it to soften in the pan for a minute or two while cooking the meat.
Drain off any fat that has rendered from the meat, then transfer meat and jalapeno to the slow cooker.
Add the seasonings to the slow cooker, stirring into the meat.
Add the cream cheese, chopped into chunks, and the Rotel. Stir. Pour the broth over all, and cover. Cook for two hours on high or four hours on low, until all is melted and heated through. Serve topped with a sprinkle of shredded cheese and, if desired, a dollop of sour cream. Enjoy!
Next, something sweet. Now, I’ll be honest, crock pot desserts don’t fall into the “lovely” category. They’re not about beautiful presentation. They’re about warmth, and slowing down, and enjoying something sweet and delicious on a cool night.
I came up with this easy recipe after buying an excess of apples, which became a happy accident. This was simple to put together and the result was warm, gooey, fruity goodness.
Apple-pecan crunch cake with cinnamon whipped cream
5 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced thin
One yellow cake mix
One stick of butter
1/3 cup sugar (optional)
1/2 cup dry oatmeal (not instant)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1. Place sliced apples in bottom of slow cooker that has been sprayed with cooking spray (or use a slow-cooker liner for easiest clean up).
2. Sprinkle apples with sugar and a generous teaspoon of cinnamon.
3. In a medium bowl, combine cake mix, oats and pecans. Sprinkle evenly over apples.
4. Top cake mix with pats of butter, sprinkle with more cinnamon, then cover.
5. Cook on low for six hours or on high for four hours.
Makes six servings.
Top with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. You won’t be disappointed!
What’s your favorite slow cooker recipe? I’m always looking for new ones to try, so feel free to share with me via email at Steph@whatsouthernfolkseat.com.
Stephanie Hill-Frazier is a writer, food blogger and regional television chef, whose on-air nickname is “Mama Steph.” She grew up in Gulf County, on St. Joe Beach, a place she will forever call home.
She is married and has three sons who are substantially taller than she is. You can find more of her recipes atWhatSouthernFolksEat.com.